a16z crypto's 'Can't Be Evil' licenses aim to fix NFT copyright confusion

Quick Take

  • a16z crypto is launching NFT-specific copyright licenses that make explicit what intellectual property rights a project protects or releases. 
  • These licenses are meant to define what an NFT holder can and can’t do with their token, tackling a historically confusing issue in the space.

a16z crypto is straightening out the confusing world of non-fungible token (NFT) copyright licenses.  

The web3-focused investment arm of the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz has created free "Can't Be Evil" licenses specific to NFTs to help creators either protect or release their intellectual property (IP), create an irrevocable baseline of IP rights for NFT holders and outline exactly what IP rights they have, the company's Miles Jennings, general counsel, and Chris Dixon, founder, wrote in a blog post today.

The project is intended to not only make the NFT project's copyright license more explicit but remove potential copyright vulnerabilities that can potentially lead to legal consequences.  

“Whereas currently many NFT holders have to trust creators and previous owners to make ‘not-evil’ decisions regarding their NFTs, projects using ‘Can’t Be Evil’ licenses can make NFT ecosystems more trustless, providing holders with a minimum baseline of standard real-world rights, thereby harmonizing real-world ownership with on-chain ownership,” Jennings and Dixon stated in the release.  

Copyright has historically been ill-defined in the NFT space, sometimes leading to litigious outcomes. NFT project founders like Yuga Labs and Larva Labs have issued cease-and-desist letters for derivative projects that bore a resemblance to their IP, including in June when Yuga filed suit against conceptual artist Ryder Ripps for founding a project too similar to its Bored Ape Yacht Club.  

What IP rights an NFT holder maintains over their asset is often a confusing issue, which even spurred one former CryptoPunk owner to sell off his NFT and start a copyright-free project called Nouns.  

Without explicit copyright licensing at the outset of a collection, NFT project founders can change or remove their copyright overnight, as was the case with Proof Collective’s blue-chip NFT collections Moonbirds and Oddities, much to the frustration of their NFT holders. Those collections are now in the public domain and can be used for free.

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